Upsets, upsets, upsets. Last week we had two major upsets take place in league action as Charlotte and UTSA both made statements on the road against preseason Conference USA favorites Southern Miss and Middle Tennessee respectively.
Just weeks ago it appeared the conference would fall short of having enough bowl eligible teams to satisfy their tie-ins but with the unexpected wins from Charlotte and UTSA the league could potentially have has many as eight teams go to bowl games.
After Week 10 had zero games that featured featured two teams with a winning record playing against each other this week we have two.
Choosing C-USA Record: 64-21
Game of the Week
UTSA at Louisiana Tech (Louisiana Tech -22.5)
First place in C-USA West will be on the line in Ruston, Louisiana, this week where the Bulldogs have won seven of their past eight games.
For the third straight week the best game in C-USA will involve UTSA. Two weeks ago they won their rivalry game with North Texas and last week they pulled off the upset against MTSU.
In both games UTSA ran the ball effectively as they are averaging 223 rushing yards during this mini winning streak. As I said last week, UTSA is really good at running the ball and if you can’t stop then you have no chance stopping their offense.
Louisiana Tech’s defense has been pretty bad at defending the pass this year. Playing against All-American quality quarterbacks such as Brent Stockstill, Mike White, and Patrick Mahomes will do that.
But this year they have also struggled against the run. They are 109th in Rushing Success Rate, and 82nd in Rushing S&P+. Jarveon Williams, Jalen Rhodes and Dalton Sturm should have success on Saturday.
The difference could be if UTSA can finish drives and fortunately for the Roadrunners, Tech is 115th in finishing drives. When they allow teams to cross the 40, they tend to give up points which bodes well for a UTSA offense that ranks 32nd in finishing drives.
All of this entails that we could be in the midst of another classic C-USA shootout.
The Roadrunners were able to quickly jump on MTSU last weekend and keep the Blue Raiders explosive offense off the field with their rushing attack and they are going to have to do that against an even more explosive attack.
Carlos Henderson, Trent Taylor, and Jarred Craft are who Ryan Higgins will target 70.5 percent of the time. Last week UTSA devoted a ton of their attention to Richie James.
This week that strategy won’t be as effective. For as great as Tech’s offense been this year Higgins usually falls in love with the big play too much.
The Passing IsoPPP ranks just 80th. You would think out of all the highlights we’ve seen from Henderson this year they would be higher but aside from the games against WKU and UMass the deep ball has been hit or miss.
UTSA’s defensive line was amazing at generating pressure against Stockstill and will have to do so again but that could be tricky. Tech loves to feature quick wide receiver screens and flare screens to Craft in the flats.
Tackling in open space will be at a premium if the UTSA defense is to have the same amount of success as they did last week.
UTSA has played Tech really close in their last two meetings with a much inferior team. In 2014 the Bulldogs won by a touchdown and last year they needed a game-winning field goal.
This UTSA team is much better, more talented, and playing with a ton of confidence. MTSU really slept on UTSA’s physicality and it showed as the Roadrunners forced four turnovers.
I don’t see Tech making that same mistake.
A good rushing attack and a solid defense is exactly what you need to win on the road so UTSA will be in this game. But at the end of the day I see a more experienced Tech team leaving with the win.
Louisiana Tech 42 UTSA 31
The Rest of C-USA...
Rice at Charlotte
Rice is the worst team in C-USA and Charlotte is the most improved team in C-USA. The 49ers are surprisingly 1-3 at home this year but with a bowl season within reach the 49ers will be fired up and should win this one convincingly.
Charlotte 34 Rice 14
North Texas at Western Kentucky
With C-USA East still not wrapped up the Tops need to be at their best and with two games left in the season I don’t see them losing focus. The Hilltoppers are just too good at home for me to go with the upset.
Western Kentucky 48 North Texas 20
Southern Mississippi at Old Dominion
The Golden Eagles have disappointed this year but still have a chance to win C-USA West. Old Dominion has already lost to WKU but can still win the East if they win out and WKU loses one more time. I have a feeling we will see USM’s best with their backs against the wall.
Southern Mississippi 34 Old Dominion 30
UTEP at FAU
UTEP must win out in order to get to a bowl game. FAU is just playing out the string. I think UTEP will want it more this weekend and lean on Aaron Jones to pound FAU and get out of Boca with the win.
UTEP 35 FAU 28
Middle Tennessee at Marshall
John Urzua will be making his first careers start in a hostile road environment against a team that would love to ruin their season. MTSU’s defense is awful, but I haven’t seen anything from Marshall this year to make me think they will be able to take advantage. Urzua will make some mistakes which will make things close but the Blue Raiders get the win behind a big day from I’Tavius Mathers.
Middle Tennessee 30 Marshall 24